Pac-12 Tournament: Is Bigger Better?

Posted by Adam Butler (@pachoopsab) on March 14th, 2016

The teams have been selected and our favorite tournament is about to begin. The Pac-12 scope is about to broaden far beyond our western view and in my opinion the nation needs to be on high Oregon Ducks alert. It’s also my opinion that we should all be thankful that the Pac-12 logo doesn’t look like the Big Ten’s. But before we dive too deeply into the 68-team version of college basketball, some thoughts on the Pac-12 Tournament that just wrapped. It was the fifth Las Vegas iteration and when Oregon was celebrated as its champion, confetti and other things we didn’t have to clean up were shot all over. It made for a great photo but also felt like a farewell of sorts. Last Friday the Pac-12 announced it will be moving its wildly successful men’s tournament to the T-Mobile Arena nearby. A few bullets on the T-Mobile Arena to be absorbed as fact and not leading comments:

The MGM Grand Has Been Good to the Pac-12 Tournament (USA Today Images)

The MGM Grand Has Been Good to the Pac-12 Tournament (USA Today Images)

  • It will open April 6, 2016.
  • It cost $375 million to construct.
  • It seats 18,800 basketball fans.

The Arena isn’t off the strip (or at least no further off the strip than the MGM Grand Garden Arena) and is going to be an upgrade in facilities. If Vegas does anything well it is build more and more lavishly and I suspect this new venture will fulfill that pattern. My gut says the T-Mobile Arena is going to be incredible. The experience will not be lacking and if Friday night’s semifinals are any indication of the direction of Pac-12 basketball, we won’t soon be lacking for excitement even if the games are played at a local park in Henderson. But my gut also says that we (Pac-12 fans) will struggle to fill those 18,800 seats. That the atmosphere could be amiss in such a ferociously grand upgrade. And don’t get me wrong, I’m all for change in the spirit of improvement. I question, however, for a conference not known for its superb attendance, what are we solving for in broadening that denominator? Because right now the tournament is perfectly filled (carried by Arizona fans) in an arena that fits just right. Saturday’s championship game flirted with capacity even into the final moments of a lopsided contest.

Of course this could all be for naught. The T-Mobile Arena could be engineered such that we can ignore a few thousand empty seats. In reading through its features and talking with a few media members who toured the facility, the place is fantastic. Furthermore, I think the Pac-12 is at the beginning of a basketball renaissance and that will be what ultimately brings fans to a game, not a venue. Of course it could be Las Vegas itself that’s the draw. Location matters. There were 63,414 fans at the Staples Center’s farewell tournament. This year there were 77,496 fans in Vegas, the third highest attendance total in tournament history (topped only by 2007 and 2008 when USC and UCLA were in the championship games, respectively).

The New T-Mobile Arena Will Host The Pac-12 Tournament Beginning Next Year

The New T-Mobile Arena Will Host The Pac-12 Tournament Beginning Next Year

Before writing this article I thought I was strongly against this move. As we’ve gotten to this point, however, I find myself increasingly OK with the venue change. An issue that lingers, however, is that we are in a state of confidence (or lack thereof) with Pac-12 leadership that makes it difficult to get behind this. Consider last week’s television distribution fiasco. Tournament games were regionalized. There was a handsome chunk of fans who didn’t get to see Friday’s semifinals. That’s not OK. And while I understand that the complexities of TV distribution mitigate some of the blame directly on the P12 Nets, you lie in the bed you make and this is the Pac-12’s reality. For a group hellbent on making itself a national brand, regionalization ain’t the answer.

Alas, we’re at the sport’s most exciting of times. When bigger isn’t better because 68 teams is enough. So enjoy the next three weeks and we can worry about gym sizes and craps strategies next year.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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